Poll: School Vouchers No Major Issue

Americans are not clamoring for school vouchers: Most registered voters oppose the idea, and even parents of school-age children only divide evenly on it. If the use of vouchers would cut public school funding, support drops even further, a new poll finds.

Among all registered voters, 40 percent in the ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll support vouchers — “having the government give parents money to help pay for their children to attend a private or religious school” — while 55 percent are opposed.

Four in 10 of those supporters peel away when asked if they’d support vouchers “even if it meant less money for the public schools,” as critics charge. Given that outcome, support for vouchers falls to 23 percent and opposition rises to 70 percent.

Parents of school-age children divide 47-47 percent on the question of vouchers. Again, though, if it meant cutting public school funding, that shifts to 66 percent opposed, 27 percent in favor.

No Surprise Concern among parents about retaining public school funding shouldn’t be a surprise, since 77 percent of parents in this survey have their child or children exclusively in public schools. Presumably those parents wouldn’t appreciate a cut in public school funding.

Indeed, most public school parents aren’t looking for a change: Even if vouchers worth $3,500 in tuition assistance were available to them, 69 percent of those parents say they’d be most likely to keep their child in public school rather than move to a private or religious institution.

Vouchers have been a prominent election issue this year. They’re on the ballot in state initiatives in California and Michigan, and Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush favors vouchers for children in underperforming schools.

Groups

Views on vouchers vary most according to political predispositions. Democrats oppose them by 69-26 percent and independents oppose them by 56 percent-40 percent. Among Republicans, the margin is closer; they oppose vouchers by 53-43 percent.

Apart from Republicans, only young adults lend majority support to vouchers, 53-44 percent. And conservatives divide 48-46 percent on the issue. If it meant cutting public school funding, though, all three of these groups move into opposition.

Methodology

This ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 6-9 among a random national sample of 965 registered voters. The results have a three-point error margin. Field work was done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

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